julie sherman (julieswn) Sat 14 Aug 10 08:24
We're excited and delighted to introduce our next author, Kate Veitch. Her second novel, "Trust" (following her breakout '08 debut, "Without a Backward Glance") tells the story of a contemporary Australian family whose personal crisis coincides with the devastating Victorian bushfires of February '09. Her characters confront many of life's curlier bits, including fidelity, grief, ambition, sexual identity, the creative impulse, and what it means to be "a good woman." Kate's a fifth generation Australian who describes her career path as "more like a stumble through the jungle." Having left school at 15, she worked in offices, restaurants, and bookstores. She became a program maker with Radio National, wrote for Vogue for four years, co-ordinated author tours to rural and remote areas (of which Australia has rather a lot) and then became a property developer, which she describes as "the perfect career prior to becoming a novelist." She says she wrote her first novel "to impress her boyfriend" and we can't tell whether that's tongue-in-cheek or not, and now she's got the bug. She divides her time between the boyfriend's San Francisco flat and their home in the rolling green hills back of Byron Bay, in northern New South Wales. Leading the conversation with Kate is Cynthia Dyer-Bennet. Cynthia is currently freelancing as a book publicist and works part-time as an in-home caregiver for the elderly. She's been a WELL member since 1993, and served on WELL staff for a decade (1998-2008). She's been a co-host of the <cooking.> conference(http://www.well.com/conf/cooking) for 16 years. She lives in northern California with her husband, their cat Wacky, and 341 jars of homemade blackberry jam.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (peoples) Sun 15 Aug 10 18:36
Thanks for the introduction, Julie. I thoroughly enjoyed reading "Trust" and I'm looking forward to this conversation! For those who aren't already familiar with Kate and her work, check out her web site for more about her, about "Trust" and about her debut novel, "Without a Backward Glance": http://www.kateveitch.com
Kate Veitch (kate-veitch) Sun 15 Aug 10 19:53
Hi there Cynthia, hi everybody! I'm excited to be an Inkwell author for this next couple of weeks, and I'm looking forward to a lively conversation.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (peoples) Mon 16 Aug 10 07:21
Hi Kate. I just loved "Trust" -- what a storyteller you are! The plot line is so compelling, so powerfully told, it's hard to put the book down. As a fiction writer, you're free to create any reality, yet in "Trust" you've built a tale that uses so many factual events -- from Rafael Nadal's win over Federer in the Men's Tennis Open to Australia's horrendous bushfires of 2009 -- as background to your story. Why not just make up all the bits? Why is it important to you to ground your novel in the real events you bring into your work?
Kate Veitch (kate-veitch) Mon 16 Aug 10 14:41
I guess the short answer, Cynthia, is that I don't write fantasy! What fascinates me is the terrain between people's public lives what we say, how we present themselves and the internal life: all the thoughts and feelings which, for so many reasons, remain unvoiced, undemonstrated. Fictional characters can illuminate that terrain very powefully. But for the reader to believe in these characters and their dilemmas, they need to feel that the characters could be actual people, known to them, or at least knowable. BTW it's interesting, the various assumptions people have about what fiction is. I remember a good friend of mine who ONLY reads non-fiction saying to me years ago, when I was urging him to read the occasional novel: "Why would I want to read something that's made up?" (I'm pleased to tell you Cynthia that he's read both my novels and, like you, couldn't put them down!). And sometimes people assume that if a novel uses actual events and characters who seem very real, then it must be a thinly disguised autobiography.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (peoples) Mon 16 Aug 10 17:15
Well of *course* we assume that, Kate. And if we happen to know the author, as I do you, we also wonder whether some of our own history or quirks have been built into the characters the writer has created. eg: one of your characters has a problem with night vision and light distortion. I remember complaining to you some time ago about my problems with my night vision due to light distortion. So of course I fancy that I've inspired you to give my night vision problems to one of your characters. Up until now I've been too cool to ask, though. In fact, I won't. But I will ask how much of your various characters' personalities have been borrowed, or at least inspired, by people you know in real life? Did you model anybody in "Trust" after yourself, and if so in what ways?
Kate Veitch (kate-veitch) Tue 17 Aug 10 17:29
Ah, fiction writers are perilous friends! Relentless scavengers, I warn you: no comment or gesture is safe around us. Why, one Australian author famously took out her notebook at a funeral and started scribbling away. To answer the question you didn't ask, Cynthia: no, I didn't model my character's night vision issues on YOUR eye problems. Rather, I stole that handy nugget from another friend who lives at Point Reyes. He mentioned on a visit that his doctor had forbidden him from driving at night and I thought, Oh, that could be a useful plot device. And lo, so it proved to be ... Let me give you an example of how broad my scavenging can be. I started thinking one day about how many real men I know had contributed (all unwittingly) to the creation of Gerry Visser, one of the main characters in Trust. I counted eight different guys before I got distracted; there are probably more though I will confess here that my ex-husband has the lion's share of Gerry's attributes. Gerry's better looking, though. And since you ask, Cynthia, there are certain aspects of Susanna's character and experiences that I have pillaged from my own life. Over the 20 year course of my first marriage, I gradually gave up all creative work, because my former husband was so resentful of it. A simple matter to turn my writing into Susanna's visual art. The tragic events that she depicts her artwork are all real world incidents that have haunted me. And some of the things the couples therapist says to Susanna and Gerry are pretty much direct quotes from the therapists my ex and I saw. Yep, it's True Confessions time here on Inkwell, folks! However I do not have a sister at all, let alone one who is a former junkie turned born-again Christian.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (peoples) Wed 18 Aug 10 08:12
> my ex-husband has the lion's share of Gerry's attributes. > Gerry's better looking, though. ouch! Speaking of Gerry's attributes, he's such a powerfully drawn character. He's intensely self-centered, is essentially unable to put himself into anybody else's shoes, and although clearly very charming, he's more than a bit of an MCP. Australian men are widely believed to be male chauvinists. By creating Gerry, you've added to the existing reputation. Yet chauvinism is hardly a trait limited to the men Down Under, nor is it by any means a universal quality of Aussie males. Did you have any qualms about creating a character who reinforces the national stereotype? Do you think Aussie men are generally more chauvinistic than men of other nations?
. (wickett) Wed 18 Aug 10 12:43
Yours is an interesting take on Gerry, Cynthia. To me he was the thinnest character in the book. All the other characters were fleshed out and deeply compelling. Not so Gerry. Men may often select a less accomplished mate, yes, but a plain one? When he was so good-looking? And an architect living in a dump of a house? I understand the cliche about the shoemaker's children, but I can't quite imagine Gerry hanging on for 20 years without making improvements. He doesn't sound like a DIYer, but what about infill? What about his social presentation? He cared about his appearance and his reputation a lot. He also was highly invested in his family and the well-being of his children. Anyway, that's a minor quibble. The book is stellar and thought-provoking. I'm happy to have read it and to have been invited to discuss it.
Kate Veitch (kate-veitch) Wed 18 Aug 10 14:47
Welcome, Wickett, so pleased to have your take on Trust. And fascinating to see how readily different opinions emerge. Gerry Visser: the guy so many readers love to hate! I mean, Gabriel's an out-and-out baddie, but Gerry is slipperier than that, by far. First, Cynthia's comment that <Australian men are widely believed to be male chauvinists> Are they? I don't think I knew that. I rather suspect that there's a characteristic Australian directness or bluntness, in both men and women, which is often construed in the US as simple rudeness, or at least a lack of subtlety or sophistication. I will say this: there's been a huge generational shift to do with gender relations, probably in both countries. The pre-Boomers (men born before 1946) DO tend to have much more chauvinistic attitudes toward women. Not that boomer blokes are all SNAGs (Sensitive New Age Guys), by any means! A relevant aside: I think this generational shift was exemplified in the attitudes of two succeeding Prime Ministers to making an apology to the Aboriginal people of Australia, especially for the long-held practice of removing mixed-race children from their Aboriginal families (called The Stolen Generations). The pre-boomer PM, John Howard, refused repeatedly to countenance such an apology. The post-boomer PM who succeeded him, Kevin Rudd, did so, and "Sorry Day" was a hugely important moment in recent Australian history -- and one I reference in Trust, as the character Jean struggles with her own issues of forgiveness and apology.
Kate Veitch (kate-veitch) Wed 18 Aug 10 15:13
Wickett, I take your comments about Gerry. Gerry IS indeed full of contradictions, partly the result of his character, which is both intensely competitive (one male Australian reviewer described him as a smug sef-centred prick) and also loyal - in his way, despite his infidelities - and loving. <Men may often select a less accomplished mate, yes, but a plain one? When he was so good-looking?> There are a couple of references in the novel to the woman he was with before meeting Susanna, a talented beauty who rejected his proposal of marriage. Gerry's ego took such a hammering from that that he then chose a biddable, unglamourous wife, someone he could safely have a family with, which he strongly desired. (After all, he can still have his glamour and adventures away from home.) <And an architect living in a dump of a house?> This telling detail I scavenged (as per earlier part of the conversation) from an acquaintance in Melbourne, a renowned architect who does indeed live in the same dump of a house that he and his wife bought over 20 years ago, when their kids were little. Why has he never renovated their house? I don't know; I've never asked him. I just purloin the fact and use it for fictive purposes. For Gerry, I think he's not only focused on the Public World, outside the home, it may also be a kind of test of Susanna's uncomplaining nature. Rather like an undisciplined child, Gerry keeps pushing the boundaries to see when his wife will complain, or put her foot down and insist that one or another renovation plan goes ahead. She doesn't. The only member of the family who grumbles is Stella-Jean, whose personality is more like her father's: driven to achieve. Now here's another question: why does Gerry insist that the house WILL be renovated toward the end of the novel, after so much has changed??
Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 18 Aug 10 15:31
Hi Kate! I also really enjoyed the book and now I have to read the first one! I missed the reference to Sorry Day, I'm afraid, and I was also mystified by some of the slang. Was it fossicked? fosdicked? Something like that. What does it mean? And I have a problem with the night vision thing! It made perfect sense, of course, but I felt like it telegraphed what was about to happen, and then lessened the shock. Jeje was one of my favorite characters!
. (wickett) Wed 18 Aug 10 15:59
Mmmm, interesting again. Not my take, Linda. Oh, the consequences of just another loose end, a snippet of unfinished business, a nick to one's pride and independence, a moment of not trusting quite enough to communicate completely. What was going to happen was obvious. When it did, my heart still stopped.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (peoples) Wed 18 Aug 10 19:24
> Cynthia's comment that <Australian men are widely believed to be male chauvinists> Are they? I don't think I knew that. < It's a widely held belief, Kate. Google "Australian men + chauvinist" and you get 102,000 hits. (25K for Italian men, 18K for Mexican men, by comparison). When I moved to Australia back in 1970, friends warned me to watch out for those MCPs down under. And I still see people today assume that women are considered "less" in Australia. But that wasn't my experience. Maybe it's because I lived in urban areas, where the "old ways" are discarded before they are in rural places. > Rather like an undisciplined child, Gerry keeps pushing the boundaries to see when his wife will complain, or put her foot down and insist that one or another renovation plan goes ahead. She doesn't. < > why does Gerry insist that the house WILL be renovated toward the end of the novel, after so much has changed < Those two things fit together, I think. Gerry is a bully; he's used to getting his own way by simply push-push-pushing for what he wants, regardless. So when he insists about the renovation at the end of the novel, I think he's thinking (maybe unconsciously) that he can keep what he's got -- a docile wife who defers to whatever he wants -- he he sticks to his patterns of bullying. What do you think, Kate? You wrote it!
Kate Veitch (kate-veitch) Thu 19 Aug 10 01:21
Gotta say, I'm in 7th heaven already. To have intelligent, thoughtful readers discuss my book with me in depth, with plenty of time for back-n-forth and rumination this has got to be every author's dream! Now, to your points:
Kate Veitch (kate-veitch) Thu 19 Aug 10 01:34
<I was also mystified by some of the slang. Was it fossicked? fosdicked?> Castle, hi, and welcome. The slang. In my first novel, the US publishers wanted to change every single bit of slang, and while I was willing to change some, there were many expressions that were too important to lose. We ended up with a glossary: quite cute, really. (You can read a piece a wrote about the process of "translating" that novel into American, published in the national daily The Australian, on this page of my website: http://www.kateveitch.com/kate/articles.html This time, different editor, and less money available for such nit-picking = no changes and no glossary either! <Was it fossicked? fosdicked? Something like that. What does it mean?> Doubtless I used the word fossicked at some point. Is it possible that this is not known to the entire English-speaking world? (One always thinks one's own vernacular is standard, no?) To fossick is to ... to rummage, I guess ... to look for something in a fairly aimless manner. You'll find the (fleeting) reference to Sorry Day on p 174 - though I didn't use that specific term, more described the situation. It's fascinating to me, what's understood by readers and what remains a mystery...
Kate Veitch (kate-veitch) Thu 19 Aug 10 01:43
The night vision thing Again: two very different takes from different readers. For Castle, the "seeding" of references to Jean's problem <telegraphed what was about to happen, and then lessened the shock.> For Wickett, who read it as character-driven, <a nick to one's pride and independence>, plus the plot-driven moment, even though you could see it coming, <my heart still stopped.> Oooh, I love making people's hearts stop! Myself, I've been astounded by the number of readers who've told me the crash came as a complete shock. I thought I had "seeded" it pretty darn clearly -- though I hope not so much as to make it "ho-hum". Jee-jee was one of your favourite character, Castle? I do enjoy finding out who people relate to most strongly. Why was she a fave for you?
Kate Veitch (kate-veitch) Thu 19 Aug 10 01:54
<Google "Australian men + chauvinist" and you get 102,000 hits.> Hooley dooley, that's a lot of MCP's! FOUR TIMES as many as for Italian men? I'm flummoxed! Cynthia. What can I say? Blokes are blokes, and not that much different, in my experience, to guys (US style). Like me, you found the myth of excessive Aussie chauvinism not borne out by the reality of actually living in Australia. Urban areas? I've lived in rural areas a lot too, and find men there just as inclined to be sweeties there as they are in the cities. Or not, as the case may be. I do suspect (as in earlier parts of conversation) that a lot of the mythology about the rampant Aussie chauvinist refers to an earlier generation.
Kate Veitch (kate-veitch) Thu 19 Aug 10 01:57
The second part of your post, Cynthia, ie #13, about the house renovations and Gerry's bullying: what can I say but that you have got it exactly right. Hammer fight on the nail!
Kate Veitch (kate-veitch) Thu 19 Aug 10 02:01
re last post: That would be "hammer RIGHT on the nail", rather than "fight".
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (peoples) Thu 19 Aug 10 11:01
> What can I say? Blokes are blokes, and not that much different, in my experience, to guys (US style). < Agreed. > In my first novel, the US publishers wanted to change every single bit of slang < I remember you talking about that when you were going through it with your editors on "Without a Backward Glance," Kate. It struck me as silly then, especially when your editor insisted that "footpath" would be confusing and that you should be substituting "sidewalk" instead. But I already had some background in Aussie slang. With <castle> testifying to her confusion about "fossick" I can see that perhaps it wasn't such an odd idea after all. And I must say that I got a little flummoxed, albeit it briefly, by your use of "hosed" in "Trust." I'd never heard the phrase in Australia when I lived there, and here in the States it means ... um ... er ... screwed/in a difficult situation. Based on context, "hosed" in Australian means all organized, tidied, ready and rarin' to go. But I love the quote from your Aussie agent -- "We have had to work out what sidewalks and sophomores and jelly doughnuts are, can't they use a bit of nous and work out our expressions?" -- that you use in Weekend Australian (http://www.kateveitch.com/downloads/WeekendAust120108.pdf) and your follow-up comment: "The world is homogenising fast enough." No kidding! The Aussie-ness of your books are part of what make them enjoyable, Kate. It's like so much of Australian life is like what we have in the USA, but not quite. There a differences in vocabulary, in attitude, in culture that are fun to discover as we read your work. When you wrote your first novel, did you have any thoughts about seeing it published outside of Australia, Kate?
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (peoples) Thu 19 Aug 10 11:12
(small aside: offsite readers with comments or questions can send email to <email@example.com> to have them added to this conversation)
. (wickett) Thu 19 Aug 10 11:31
I seem to be a contrary voice here. Oh well. An appendix seems the way to go, rather than altering indiginous slang, which, it seems to me, is part of the essential Australian character of the novel. If the publisher won't provide, you, Kate, can always send the proofs to your US friends to compile a word list!
Kate Veitch (kate-veitch) Thu 19 Aug 10 15:56
Australian slang is one of those things, like marsupials, that we tend to take for granted. It owes something to British slang, but has a lot of indigenous words and phrases. Yes, Castle, I would have liked the US publishers to provide a glossary for "Trust", although there's less slang in this book than in my first, "Without a Backward Glance" (due to parts of WaBG being set in the 60's and 70's, when language was less homogenous.) I'm more than happy to try and explain any puzzling words or phrases to curious readers. Cynthia, your reference to "hosed" in #20, above: actually, it's part of a phrase, "home and hosed", kind of like "done and dusted" (which i hope is not mystifying in its turn!) I've always understood "home and hosed" to be a horse-riding term, meaning that the horse was safely back in its stable and settled, after the ride. Context: in Chapter 1 of Trust, there's a conversation about the imminent US '08 elections, and Gerry says that "if they had compulsory voting, like we do, Obama would be home and hosed." As I say, folks, I'm happy to elucidate any slang or other puzzlements, to the best of my ability. Bring 'em in for inspection, by all means!
Kate Veitch (kate-veitch) Thu 19 Aug 10 16:22
And now that I've mentioned politics: for those who are interested: Tomorrow Australian tomorrow, that is, Saturday August 21, we have a federal election. We don't vote for a Prime Minister, but for the party of which they are leader. The Labor Party is roughly the equivalent of the US Democrats, and the Liberal Party = your Republicans. There was a change of leader in the ruling Labor Party a few months back, which means we have the opportunity to actually vote, for the first time, for a female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. Her opponent for the Liberal Party, Tony Abbott, is an odious sharp operator, and the two parties are neck and neck in the polls. Marginal seats will decide the result. A few big differences to your voting system: * no electronic voting machines: we mark paper ballots with pencils * voting day is always a Saturday * compulsory voting at all 3 levels of government: federal, state and local. $100 fine if you fail to vote. * Widespread use of early and mail ballots * Voting stations in vast range of locations, no long queues, though often quite the jolly atmosphere * No other bills, issues, or offices are voted on: just the one election. Government officials are appointed by the party in power, not elected; likewise, they decide policy issues. * Crucially, we use a preferential voting system, which means that if the party you marked as your first choice doesn't win the seat, your second choice will be counted. Thus, I can vote for the Green Party candidate in my electorate, and although they are unlikely to win the seat, this registers support for their policies. Then, my second preference, for the Labor Party candidate, will count. Here endeth the lesson!
Pamela McCorduck (pamela) Thu 19 Aug 10 16:42
Hi, Kate! I didn't have trouble with the slang at all--I could figure it out in context, and I loved learning new words. In fact, I'd like to say how beautifully I thought you did the kids--they sound like authentic kids, not some grownup's idea of kids. A hundred dollar fine if you fail to vote. How much does the government collect with such a law?
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